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Gross Misconduct For Staged Fights?

from Rory Boylen of The Hockey News,

What if we reanimated the gross misconduct and called it on players for partaking in a staged fight?

After floating this idea out on Twitter, most of the feedback was that the grey area between what is and isn’t a staged fight would be too blurry for the rule to function. On the contrary, every rule in the book has a grey area and it’s the job of the referees to decipher a ruling. This is why, in Section 6 of the NHL Rulebook under “Physical Fouls,” minor, major and match penalties all have the preamble, “The Referee, at his discretion, may assess…”

A gross misconduct brings an immediate ejection and review from the commissioner’s office. While you wouldn’t necessarily have to hand out a suspension for each infraction called (although you could set that standard, too), you would certainly sit a guy down after his second or third. The idea is this would start to eliminate cheesy fights 30 seconds into a game or immediately after a faceoff. We generally know a staged tilt when we see it.

Would players find a way around this? Absolutely – they always do. Maybe they bump each other a few times around the rink and in the corner to make it appear less orchestrated. That’s not perfect, but at least the optics are more palatable. And you have to ask yourself: at what point is it not worth the effort to have a marginal player on the roster who takes up ice time to go through these back-door exercises to accomplish a fight?

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Comments

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Way too messy.  Basically every staged fight could be fought on the grounds of some perceived injustice from the last time those two teams/players met.

Take the refs out of it. Just let the league look at fights and if a guy gets into too many fights which have that “staged” stink on ‘em, give the guy a phone call to start and then start punishing him if he keeps it up.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/15/13 at 01:12 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

Good thoughts JJ.

I think the NHL likes a veneer of objectivity to their rules, though. It allows them to claim objectivity while actually being very subjective in their enforcement.

Make fights that start (1) in the first 5 or last 5 minutes of a game, or (2) within 15 second of any face off during the game, an automatic gross misconduct. If the GM penatly is called after the 10 minute mark of the second period, the offenders sit the following game, too.

That should at least make the fights appear less staged.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 03/15/13 at 01:26 PM ET

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Can someone that has been in a hockey fight please define a staged fight for me?  Does it include fights where two guys agree to fight to boost the momentum one way or another?  Because that’s not a staged fight to me.  Those types of fights have a very specific purpose.  It seems that the yuppie media wants to crack down on fighting overall by 1) eliminating fights after “clean hits” whatever a “clean hit” means; and 2) now staged fighting.  If the media had it their way, there would very specific terms and conditions met before a fight could happen.  Players would also wear bionic goggles a face shields that allowed them to avoid last second contact… because, you know, players should be expected to control their bodies traveling at break neck speeds.  My God yuppie media… give it a rest.

Here’s a great recent quote from a legendary NHL coach:

“My stance on fighting in NHL is simple. The players past and present should be the ones deciding on its future unlike others that have never played.”

-Scotty Bowman

Posted by Siggy on 03/15/13 at 01:28 PM ET

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optics are more palatable

No, no, no, no, no.

Insofar as a “staged” fight could be argued to be problematic, this is the exact wrong reason to want to do -anything- about them.

The theory that people who don’t like hockey would watch hockey if not for all the fights is completely bogus. It’s used as an excuse by people who don’t watch the sport for why they don’t watch the sport, when the actual reason is that they just aren’t interested to begin with.


As for any other problems I have with this article, J.J. from Kansas basically covered them.

Posted by larry on 03/15/13 at 01:58 PM ET

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Just let the league look at fights and if a guy gets into too many fights which have that “staged” stink on ‘em, give the guy a phone call to start and then start punishing him if he keeps it up.

So give it to Shanny, is what you’re saying?

Look, this ‘banning staged fights’ thing is a stupid idea, and the notion of sending a fight to Toronto after the fact and have Shanny look at it and then make the magic happen isn’t much better.

The rational options are twofold:

1) Ban fights altogether.  Make the penalties for fighting what they are at the NCAA level, for instance.  First offense, suspended one game.  Subsequent offenses ramp up fast from there.  IIRC it goes from 1 to 3 to 7, but the last time I looked at those rules was years ago.

2) Shut up about fighting.

That’s pretty much the list.  I’m firmly in the #2 camp, but I understand and allow that there are reasons to be in #1.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 03/15/13 at 03:12 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

With all the problems hockey is facing right now, is this even one of them?  While its nowhere near as exciting as when players fight to avenge some perceived slight, I dont see it as something we all need to be up in arms about.

The only debate worth having is fighting or no fighting.  Either we say yes to fighting and let goons try and justify their jobs any way they see fit, including staging fights for our entertainment, or we say no to fighting and start weeding them out of the league.

Posted by Hootinani on 03/15/13 at 03:21 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

So give it to Shanny, is what you’re saying?

Did I say it was an issue for the Department of Player Safety?

No; that’s stupid. If it’s a safety issue, then all fighting should be banned. As I obviously don’t think that, I don’t want warnings/suspensions handed out on the stupid veneer that it’s for safety reasons when there are other times when it’s perfectly acceptable for two meatheads to throw haymakers at one another.

I want staged fighting gone because staged fighting is a stupid waste of time.

If they have to invent a “Department of Preventing Stupid Wastes of Time” in order to handle this, then I’m in favor of that. 

The black-and-white all-or-nothing options aren’t the rational choices, they’re the lazy choices. Hockey would be better to be rid of staged fights while keeping the good fights.  If a good fight accidentally gets caught up in the mechanism, then I’m ready to accept that.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/15/13 at 03:35 PM ET

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I disagree that “staged fighting” (again, whatever that is) is a stupid waste of time.  Fighting early in a game, off a draw, isn’t a staged fight.  It’s sending a message… getting your team energized.  Some might think that’s stupid.  But if you read enough quotes from current players about these types of fight, you’ll quickly realize that they do indeed serve a purpose.

Posted by Siggy on 03/15/13 at 04:04 PM ET

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If you want to reduce the occurrence of staged fights, shrink the rosters by three players.

Staged fights are nothing but a momentum killer, generally involving two players who do not have any impact on the game. You build momentum off of emotionally charged events, watching two guys who have nothing to do with the game beat on each other is meaningless. If staged fights did have an effect on a teams momentum, then why not just watch youtube clips of boxing between shifts.

Fighting can energize a team, or send a message, but the fight need an emotional element to it, not just an agreement to fight between players who otherwise wouldn’t even be on the ice.

Posted by nwm on 03/15/13 at 04:30 PM ET

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Did I say it was an issue for the Department of Player Safety?

Did I say you did?

You said “Just let the league look at fights” which is so vague as to be meaningless.  I asked “So give it to Shanny, is what you’re saying?”  If you want people to be able to understand you, say something comprehensible.

I want staged fighting gone because staged fighting is a stupid waste of time.

The vast majority of fights are similarly stupid wastes of time then, because the vast majority of fights are ‘staged’ in that they are precipitated by one person looking to jumpstart his team or change the flow of the game.  Some fights are a little more staged, some a little less, but very few of them actually occur organically as a result of something that just happened.

The black-and-white all-or-nothing options aren’t the rational choices, they’re the lazy choices.

You gotten it exactly backwards, mostly because you don’t appear to understand why fights happen in games, but also partially because you haven’t really thought the issue through.

There is, literally, no ‘reason’ to have a fight in a pro sport of any kind.  None.  Fights exist in hockey like hitting batters exists in MLB, because they are wrapped up in an amorphous ‘code’ specific to each sport.  As such, the vast majority of hockey fights are staged because even the ‘allowable’ circumstances under which they are engaged are fairly easily foreseen.  I mean, how many times a year are you surprised that a fight happened?  You might be a poor subject to ask, but still.  I have a hard time thinking many NHL fights gobsmack you with their unpredictability.

So, if your position is that the ‘staged’ fight needs to go either you want all fights to go or you haven’t thought about the issue long enough.

IMO, I don’t mind fights.  There are entire sports based on punching someone in the head until they stop moving, so if the NHL wants to set itself apart from other pro sports by maintaining a ‘code’ that incorporates them to some (relatively) minor degree, great.  As long as the guys who are fighting in the NHL know that they’re scrambling their brains and aren’t being dragooned into fighting, they’re grown ups and are able to make that decision like someone who chooses to be a pro boxer or UFC fighter does.

If it turns out that the NHL can’t find guys who want to fight anymore because everyone thinks it’s too dangerous for them, well, that’s fine too.

‘Just ban staged fights’ is feckless frippery.

 

Posted by HockeyinHD on 03/15/13 at 04:40 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Did I say you did?

You said “Just let the league look at fights” which is so vague as to be meaningless.  I asked “So give it to Shanny, is what you’re saying?”  If you want people to be able to understand you, say something comprehensible.

I apologize. I didn’t think you were dumb enough to think that Shanahan runs the entire league.

The vast majority of fights are similarly stupid wastes of time then, because the vast majority of fights are ‘staged’ in that they are precipitated by one person looking to jumpstart his team or change the flow of the game.  Some fights are a little more staged, some a little less, but very few of them actually occur organically as a result of something that just happened.

I disagree that it’s the vast majority, but if that’s the case: ok.

[the rest of your garbage]

yawn.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/15/13 at 05:04 PM ET

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The vast majority of fights are similarly stupid wastes of time then, because the vast majority of fights are ‘staged’ in that they are precipitated by one person looking to jumpstart his team or change the flow of the game.

There is, literally, no ‘reason’ to have a fight in a pro sport of any kind.  None.

Uh-uh, none of this is correct.

Hockey is a game where, in practice, one player on one team can injure or put at risk of injury a player on another team either recklessly or on purpose and escape redress as long as he doesn’t tick a couple boxes on a list the GMs drew up. A set up like that begs for frontier justice.

Enter fighting. Fighting not only allows for an “extralegal” righting of wrongs—it’s an entertaining and, comparatively safe mechanism in which it can occur (certainly less injurious than, say, Duncan Keith blasting a Sedin in the face with an elbow in retaliation to a bull**** hit that the referees inexplicably missed). In addition, it can serve as a deterrent to future reckless behavior.

On the latter note, it isn’t as effective as it used to be, but that’s on the referees, not on the institution of fighting. This notion of saving a rat from fighting a goon because they’re different sizes is one the NHL would be well rid of, but that’s a different discussion..

Posted by larry on 03/15/13 at 05:06 PM ET

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Wouldn’t pass. NHLPA overwhelmingly voted down staged fight proposal back in 09.

Posted by rjman48 from Royal Oak on 03/15/13 at 11:06 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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